Theatre Review: LIZZIE THE MUSICAL – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

The Company of LIZZIE THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

Driven by its blistering score, simple set design and powerhouse lead performances, LIZZIE THE MUSICAL is a night at the theatre to die for!

4 out of 5 stars

The tale of Lizzie Borden is the stuff of American legend. Accused of brutally murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in the late summer of 1892, Borden’s trial became a media sensation, inspiring numerous films, literary works, and even a twisted nursery rhyme. More recently, it has been turned into a thumping rock musical, opening at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre before embarking on a UK tour.

In many ways, LIZZIE THE MUSICAL is a great fit for Hope Mill Theatre, known for its edgy productions and strong female performers. Director William Whelton successfully reimagines Borden’s Victorian-era story, blending Andrew Exeter’s period set and costume design with wailing electric guitars and vibrant, dynamic lighting. The result is a satisfying mix of darkness and humour, trauma and laughter.

Shekinah Mcfarlane as Emma in LIZZIE THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

The infamous story is narrated by four women who lead a fierce rock band, bursting onto the stage with boundless energy and powerful vocals.

Lauren Drew brims with danger in the title role of Lizzie, commanding the stage with her electrifying vocals and emotional depth. The chemistry between Drew and Maiya Quansah-Breed as Alice, Lizzie’s best friend and unexpected love interest, is a standout, breathing life into this dark tale.

As Lizzie’s older sister Emma, Shekinah McFarlane packs a punch, balancing sass and intensity, while Mairi Barclay, as Bridget the maid, provides comic relief with her expressive performance.

Lauren Drew and Maiya Quansah-Breed in LIZZIE THE MUSICAL. Photo: Pamela Raith

LIZZIE THE MUSICAL certainly has all the makings of a great suspense thriller, but at times, the barely pauses for breath between songs, leaving little room for that suspense to brew. The simplistic plot also stretches the thin narrative across two acts.

However, the blistering original punk-rock score, skillfully performed by the onstage rock band led by musical director Honor Halford-MacLeod, propels the show forward.

LIZZIE THE MUSICAL may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an experience worth having. The talent of the four powerhouse women, the blistering score, and the beautifully simple setting make it a night at the theatre to die for!

LIZZIE The Musical runs at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, until 30th September 2023